Take a deep breath. We are post-DOL, and we are post-election. There is a lot of uncertainty on the horizon for 2017 as we face some big questions.
We’ve faced uncertain times before, and we will certainly face them again. So let’s move past that and focus on the now and your plan for the future. Despite the potential for turmoil in any possible future, you shouldn’t neglect the importance of planning and the value of holding yourself accountable to your path.
Many advisors shoot for the moon with their business plans. They project big growth and a wave of new clients, but then they don’t look back at that plan until the end of the year. Not surprisingly, these advisors rarely hit the growth targets they’ve ambitiously set out for themselves, and then they’ll find excuses to justify why they didn’t end up where they planned to go.
“Well, I lost a few big clients.”
“I didn’t get enough leads.”
“Some legislation changed.”
These excuses are hollow when you use your plan as a tool for guiding your day-to-day business.
Let’s look at an example: Getting a spacecraft to the moon is no easy task. There are thousands of known variables to account for — gravity, rotation, orbit, thrust, fuel, friction, weight — but in the early days of NASA there were many unknowns simply on the virtue of the fact that no one had ever been to the moon before. They made their plan with as much education as they could, and then they built in systems that would help them stay on the line that would have them reach the moon at the exact right time and place.
Staying on that line was the key to mission success, so spacecraft are built with dozens of maneuvering thrusters designed to make minor course corrections as a journey progresses. By watching the trajectory of the craft closely, the craft can be nudged back into line as soon as it deviates. The farther a shuttle drifts off the line, the harder it is to get it back. It takes more time, it takes more resources, and wasting either of those could jeopardize the entire mission.
Waiting until the end of the year to check in on your business plan is like seeing the moon out your window and seeing if you’re still on the right path for your chosen landing zone. By then, it’s too late.
If we take this analogy back down to Earth, think about how you engage your current clients. If you’re like most advisors, you likely check in with clients quarterly or at the least semi-annually. You recognize that a client’s financial plan is always fluid. Life events or opportunities in the market can impact the plan, so you insist on revisiting the plan from time to time to ensure its long-term success. You’re keeping the plan on the right line, and this process is similar to how you should be handling your own business plan.
As you plan for 2017, identify the line that will take you where you want to go, and put systems in place to keep you on track. Those systems could include:
- Monthly check-ins with your team. Quarterly meetings where you dedicate an entire day to taking stock of everything that has happened so far and what you can do to continue growing. Annual meetings where you set aside a few days to develop a thorough and comprehensive plan for the future while learning from the past.
- Projections that account for a potential loss of clients. Check back over your business history to get a sense of what sort of attrition you can expect.
- An honest assessment of your new business development efforts. Your growth rate won’t change if your strategy and tactics stay the same, so consider doing something new and aggressive if you want to see new opportunities.
- A CEO or business coach to help hold you accountable and also provide expert insight into your challenges.
- An appointment setting firm to give you a steady pipeline of the qualified prospects that you need to grow.
- Delegate day-to-day management and service tasks so that you can focus more on sales and business development.
Going to the moon is not easy, but that’s why so few people have done it. In that same vein, achieving explosive exponential growth is possible, but it will take deliberate effort, a well-crafted plan and accountability. By staying current during the year with the plan, you end up looking at historical data you understand, not hysterical data.
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